Ready to express your emotions over text or keyboard?
We’ll show you the meanings of the various Korean emoticons, and how to use them yourself!
We’ve prepared a free PDF guide that goes along with this page to take with you:
Intro to Korean Emoticons
Okay, show of hands.
Who has ever seen a symbol or emoticon in a Korean text message that they couldn’t understand the meaning of?
When you first saw the two upward lines (^^) in a conversation, did you think the person was referencing a previous part of the conversation? Were you totally confused?
Don’t worry you’re not alone! The good news is, you just weren’t well acquainted with Korean emoticons.
As you’ll see, Korean emoticons are tons of fun. The first step is being able to decipher them. Learning the basics will allow you to tell how your Korean friends are feeling when they type. In the same way, you get to express how you feel, whether you feel uncomfortable, happy, excited, or sad. You’ll even get to know more about modern Korean culture through them.
The second step is starting to make use of them in your Korean text conversations. And as a side bonus, you may end up learning Korean just by typing in Hangeul more often. Even if you can’t make complete sentences yet, it’s fun to throw in some Korean words into your messages when you can.
Emoticons are the best part of texting in Korean, and they have two main benefits over Western-style emoticons:
- There are emoticons representing a wide range of emotions and Koreans have emoticons for almost every situation (for better or for worse)
- While Western text emoticons are sideways – think ;), :), or :(, you don’t need to tilt your head to read their Korean equivalents – they’re drawn as the eye would see them.
To type some of these smileys and emoticons on your computer or mobile phone, you’ll need to be able to type in Korean and have a Korean keyboard installed.
All set? Let’s get right into the action.
Please Note: Korean emoticons are similar to other East Asian emoticons, but may use Korean characters in some instances. Though we do our best to explain the meanings below, some individuals may use these text symbols to take a slightly different meaning or they may be interpreted differently depending on the context. In this article, we’ll cover only the emoticons, but if you wish to read up about Korean abbreviations for text messaging, you may do so here.
The 80/20 of Korean Emoticons
At 90 Day Korean, we’re all about focusing on the 20% of materials that will give you 80% of the results. When it comes to Korean emoticons, it’s no different!
While in this post, we’ll give you many examples of emoticons that are used, we’ll be sure to give you the most commonly used symbols where appropriate so you’re not left guessing. A lot of the symbols are used a lot more frequently than others and you don’t need to spend all your time memorizing them.
There are honestly hundreds of emoticons and each has many variations so instead, you can focus on general guidelines:
1) If something is pointing upwards, it is usually representing a positive emotion.
For example, ^^
2) If something is horizontal, it usually represents a neutral emotion such as confusion or sleepiness.
For example, = =
3) If something is pointing downwards, it usually represents a negative emotion.
For example, ㅜㅜ
These rules won’t apply in every case, but we can use them as a starting point as we delve into the emoticons for various emotions. Let’s keep things positive and kick things off with happy emoticons!
Happy Korean Emoticons
There is no shortage of happy Korean emoticons, and when texting with some Koreans you may see a smiley face symbol in nearly every other sentence!
So many variations of smiley faces exist that they warrant their own section.
The first rule of Korean smileys is that THERE ARE NO RULES! Basically, anything goes, but at a bare minimum, you need a set of happy eyes.
Most commonly, ^^ are used for eyes that represent the happy, wide eyes you get when you are smiling! You can make them by pressing SHIFT + 6 on your keyboard.
Once you have the eyes, you can feel free to add other elements such as a nose, a mouth, a face, or blushing cheeks to be extra cute!
Be like Burger King and have it your way — be creative!
Here are some of the many smiley faces used in Korean texting.
Smiley Korean Emoticons
Feeling happy? Here are the most common ways to show your smiley face through text.
|Smiley Korean Emoticon||Explanation|
|^^||smiley eyes showing happiness|
|^o^||smiley face (with round mouth)|
|^_^||smiley face (with straight mouth)|
|^.^||smiley face (with cute mouth)|
|^-^||smiley face (with small mouth)|
|^ㅂ^||smiley face (with open mouth)|
|n_n||smiley face (with big eyes)|
|'ㅂ'||smiley face (with open mouth)|
|(^o^)||smiley face and mouth with face outline|
|*(^o^)*||really happy smiley face|
|★^^★||smiley face with cheeks|
80/20 Most Commonly Used: ^^ or ^_^
Other Happy Emoticons
Besides smiley faces, here are other emoticons to show your positive emotion.
|Happy Korean Emoticon||Explanation|
|(^_^)/||holding up your hand waving and saying "hi"|
|ㅇㅅㅇ||animal nose smiley|
|•ㅅ•||animal nose smiley (variation)|
|(•¯ ∀ ¯•)||cute animal face|
Sad Korean Emoticons
Most sad emoticons in Korea have tears, which are represented by vertical lines dropping from the eyes. For the most commonly used variations, you’ll need the Korean keyboard as these are Korean characters, but there are variations that don’t require it.
Sad Korean Emoticon Explanation
ㅜㅜ sad eyes with tears
ㅜ.ㅜ crying face (with small mouth)
ㅜ_ㅜ crying face (with straight mouth)
ㅠㅠ sad eyes with double tears
ㅠ.ㅠ crying face (with small mouth)
ㅠ_ㅠ crying face (with straight mouth)
T.T varation of sad eyes with tears
Y.Y variation of sad eyes with tears
;_; small eyes with tears
!_! big eyes with tears
OTL crouched on the ground in pain or sadness (represents a person on all fours)
OTL Meaning in Korean
OTL is another emoticon that’s commonly used in Korean texts. It’s usually used to convey feelings of disappointment, sadness, or defeat.
It’s not an acronym, so don’t look up the meanings of the letters “O,” “T,” and “L” separately. Instead, look at “OTL” as a complete image on its own to figure out what it means.
O – A person’s head
T – A person’s torso and hand on the ground
L – A person’s bent legs
Flirty Korean Emoticons
Sending a text to your significant other can be made extra sweet with these emoticons.
Flirty Korean Emoticon Explanation
^3^ puckered lips
♡.♡ love eyes
*^.^* blushing (perhaps from a compliment)
(>^_^)> <(^_^<) hug (two people embracing each other)
Other Korean Emoticons
Just like how there are different emotions expressed by people, there should also be their emoticon counterpart. Here are some of them:
Korean Emoticon Meaning
^^; flustered or embarrassed
^_^;; sweating due to awkwardness or embarrassment
=.= upset or lost for words or bored
-_- upset or lost for words or bored
=_= upset or lost for words or bored
@[email protected] confused (also can mean dizzy)
o_o confused smiley
//_// shy face
ㅅ'ㅗ giving someone "the finger"
V(^-^)V posing by throwing up the "victory" sign
요TL on all fours vomiting
Bonus: How to Sound Cute
While it’s not an emoticon per se, this symbol can be used to make your texting sound cuter. Even if you don’t use it yourself, you’ll learn to recognize it and will understand its meaning when you do come across it.
For added cuteness, add the symbol ~ to the end of your sentence.
치킨 먹자 (chikin meokja)~
Let’s eat chicken~
To be more Korean, add the basic smiley face afterwards for a one-two cuteness punch!
I miss you~^^
You may notice that some Korean friends use this symbol after almost every sentence! It can be used after virtually any sentence, and it basically extends the last syllable to sound cuter or “애교 (aegyo).” It would be the equivalent of saying something like “let’s goooo” in English in a cute voice.
How to Laugh in Korean Texting
While not exactly Korean emoticons, certain characters in the Korean language help indicate and express laughter and allow you to show emotions in texting. For this reason, we’ll cover it here briefly. ^^
There are three main ways South Koreans express laughter through text:
Pronounced “크크크” (keukeukeu), Koreans use this character to show laughter. Some people use one ㅋ, others use many! If something is really funny to you, you might want to add more ㅋs like this: ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ
When you want to mix things up, you can use the character ㅎ to show laughter. Why is this used? Well, it is similar in pronunciation to the English “h” so it is like saying “hahaha” in English, only shortened.
You might also see Koreans using 헤헤헤 (hehehe) from time to time! When you want to spell things out, you can use it as well! Pronounced “hehehe“, this one is pretty self-explanatory.
80/20 Most Commonly Used: ㅋㅋㅋ
So there you have it. Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to spice up your Korean text conversations with a lot more emotion (and cuteness of course) and even learned a thing or two about Korean culture to boot!
Just remember the basic elements, and feel free to explore. Be sure to report back any experiences you have while making use of what you learned.
What is your favorite emoticon? Have any more commonly used emoticons to add to our list? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you~^^